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Give women their Islamic right to land: Researchers suggest

ISLAMABAD, July 24: A research on the denial of land rights to women in Pakistan has suggested to the government “to rely on religion” to meet women’s demand for equal rights to land.

Research fellow Dr Saba Gul Khattak, presenting the findings of a study report, “Women

land rights” jointly funded by ActionAid-Pakistan, International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Thursday, argued that since Shariat is the most widely accepted means of granting rights to women, the approach would be practical. Alternatively, the government to bring inheritance and other family laws under a secular civil code. That would enable the State to enact gender neutral laws, she said.

Though a small number of women in the country hold land titles, the study said, they generally do not exercise control over it. It recommended “a joint tilling system to give land to landless women”.

It stressed that women’s traditional knowledge about agriculture must be preserved and built upon to create food security, check migration from rural to urban areas.

There is growing realisation that local and indigenous farming practices are integral to sustainable agricultural output, the study said.

On the issues of devolution and local bodies, the study asserted that local councillors should have a role in resolving land disputes, distribution of inheritance and checking land grabbing.

The study wants the farm labour to be brought into the fold of formal economy so it could be regulated and workers be protected. Women’s contribution to agriculture would thus be recognised and valued, it said.

Secretary, Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, Dr Faqir Hussain stressed on enforcement of inheritance law adding that an improved mechanism can be useful for the effective enforcement of women right to inheritance.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Social Sector, Shahnaz Wazir Ali said, the government was committed to providing women their due status and rights, besides efforts were being made for their socio- economic empowerment.

The adviser appreciated the efforts of SDPI for touching a very important issue adding that the government has already started Benazir Income Support Programme to empower the women.

Speaking on the occasion, SDPI Board chairman

H.U.Beg said customary laws still deprived women of their religious and fundamental rights of ownership and transfer of land.

“Women are not enrolled on revenue record as tenants and therefore could not inherit land”, he added.

As far as the question of women’s land rights are concerned, that needs to be seen in the broader context of systemic and institutional biases against women, he added.

He stressed that the problems of landless peasantry must be seen in broader context of democracy.
Source: Dawn
Date:7/25/2008

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